How to Self-Publish a Cookbook

Marianne Stenger
8th March 2021

Designing your own cookbook is a wonderful way to pass time-honoured family recipes on to your children and grandchildren or share your culinary creations with a wider audience. 

Creating your own cookbook can be a big undertaking, as you’ll not only need to write out the recipes and plan each section of the book but also cook and photograph each dish.  But, all that effort will be 100% worth it when you finally get to see your favourite recipes printed on glossy paper and bound in a beautiful professional-quality photo book

So whether you have a selection of tried-and-tested recipes you want to share with family and friends or would like to document some of the original dishes you’ve come up with, follow these tips to turn your recipes into a personalised cookbook.

1. Pick a theme

Deciding on a theme for your book will make it easier to narrow down the recipes that you would like to include in it. If you’re not sure what your theme should be, think about the type of food you make on a regular basis and how you would translate that into a theme for your cookbook. 

Examples of cookbook themes include things like ‘essential pasta dishes’ or ‘seasonal soups.’ Of course, if you want to include a selection of your favourite starters, mains and desserts in one photo book, you could choose a more general theme like ‘entertaining made easy.’ On the other hand, you could make your theme more specific and focus on gluten free recipes, low-fat desserts, vegan meals or even signature cocktails.

2. Create an outline 

Once you know what type of dishes you’ll be including in your cookbook, it’s time to think about the book’s outline. Which specific recipes do you want to include? What’s the best or most logical order to present them in? Creating your recipe book’s outline in advance will also make it easier to plan your photoshoots, as there might be certain dishes that would be easy to cook and photograph on the same day because of similar ingredients or cooking methods.

3. Decide on a recipe structure  

Deciding on your recipe structure in advance will make it easier to keep the photo book’s style consistent throughout. Of course, every recipe should have a list of ingredients, exact measurements and preparation instructions. But there are other things you may or may not want to include such as process images, serving suggestions, alternate recipes or introductory paragraphs.

4. Include a table of contents

Including a table of contents is a good idea, as it will make it easy for readers to look up specific recipes without flipping through each page. Depending on how your book is structured, the table of contents might be divided into chapters such as “starters” and “desserts” or it could simply list each recipe separately along with the page number on which it can be found.

5. Test each recipe

Cooking and testing each recipe will be the most labour intensive part of creating your cookbook, but it’s an important step. Even if you’ve made the dishes you are writing about countless times before, you’ll need to confirm the exact measurements and make sure that each step will make sense to someone who has never cooked that particular dish before. 

Keep notes of everything you do while cooking, from how finely you slice or dice the ingredients to the equipment you use to how often you turn or stir the food while it’s cooking.

6. Style and photograph the food

After you’ve cooked and tested your dish, it’s time to plate and photograph it. Even the most delicious dishes can look unappealing if they are poorly photographed, so this is an important step. 

Think about how you want to present the food to your audience. For instance, a bowl of soup might need a little garnish to make it more interesting and a cocktail would likely look better when photographed from the side than from above. If you need some inspiration for plating your dishes, check out some of these styling tips for fabulous food photographs.

7. Keep the layout simple

Less is often more when designing a photobook. Choose a simple layout and leave plenty of white space so that each photo and illustration has room to breathe and the recipes are easy to take in. Since certain recipes may be more elaborate and require longer explanations or additional illustrations, it can be nice to give some of the recipes a double page spread. Bob Books layflat albums are perfect for this, as they allow open pages to remain completely flat with no crease in the centre, so photos can be printed seamlessly from left to right.

8. Design an eye-catching cover

As it’s the first thing people will see, your cookbook’s cover design is important. You might want to use one or more of your favourite photos from within the recipe book or keep it minimalistic with just text and a simple illustration. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at some examples of cookbooks online or in the Bob Bookshop. We’ve also put together some tips for designing your perfect photo book cover in this post.

9. Come up with a catchy title

Your cookbook’s title matters too, because it tells your audience what sort of dishes they will discover in your book. Keep it short and make it as specific as possible. Think about your audience and what keywords might inspire or appeal to them. If you feel like you can’t say everything you want to about your book in the title alone, you can use a subtitle to add some context or additional details.

10. Include some personal details

The best part about making your own cookbook is adding your own stories or family history. Where did the recipe come from? Is there any anecdote attached to it? 

For instance, if the cookbook is for your own kids or other family members, you might want to include a little backstory with each recipe. Maybe the dish you’re writing about is something you grew up with and have fond memories of eating as a child, or maybe you invented it as a happy accident while trying to cook something else.

Once you’ve written out your recipes and each dish has been photographed, it’s time to put it all together and design your masterpiece. Need some help with the design process? Take a look at our beginner’s guide to using the Bob Designer Software. Alternatively, you can choose to use the Bob Books iOS App or PDF-to-book option.